On Saturday, just as worshipers were gathering for morning prayers in the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, a bomb shattered the office of the imam.
Fortunately, no one was injured in the explosion, and the FBI is still trying to find the perpetrator. The mosque had received threatening calls and emails in the past, and bias-driven incidents against Muslims in America have been on the rise — several mosques have been the target of attacks and violent plots.
While many public figures have spoken out against the bombing, President Trump has remained silent. Trump’s adviser Sebastian Gorka, however, has not. He has defended the president’s silence by suggesting that the attack might have been staged by a left-wing activist.
Gorka, like the president, has a long record of anti-Muslim views. Before taking his White House job, he was reportedly fired by the FBI for his “over-the-top Islamophobic rhetoric.” In an interview on Wednesday with Breitbart News, Gorka went so far as to downplay the Oklahoma City bombing and other attacks committed by white supremacists:
Look at [New York Times reporter] Maggie Haberman and her acolytes in the Fake News media who immediately have a conniption fit and say, ‘What about Oklahoma City?” What about Oklahoma City? A) That individual is not a jihadi. My comments were about jihadism post-September 11. Second, Timothy McVeigh had an accomplice. Second, by the way, this the one I love, that event was twenty-two years ago. Can you talk to me about the last sixteen years of hundreds of thousands of people killed in the Middle East by jihadis? It’s this constant: ‘Oh, it’s the white man. It’s the white supremacists. That’s the problem.’ No it isn’t, Maggie Haberman. Go to Sinjar. Go to the Middle East and tell me what the real problem is today. Go to Manchester.
Violence of any kind is condemnable. But by mocking the notion that white supremacists can commit horrific acts of violence, Gorka effectively dismisses the reality — and the victims — of the recent attacks at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston; the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek; the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom senior living community in Overland Park, Kansas; an Olathe, Kansas restaurant; a pizzeria and Walmart in Las Vegas; a Portland, Oregon, train; and a Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis.
In dismissing the Oklahoma City bombing as a one-off, Gorka is signaling that the Trump administration isn’t taking the attacks, plots and bias incidents in the U.S. that have been committed by people like Timothy McVeigh very seriously. They have already decided who the “real problem” is and are determined to target particular communities—in this case, Muslim communities.
Such remarks also play into the unfair and unjustified portrayal of Muslims as terrorists and help justify policies, like the travel ban and unlawful profiling, that unmistakably undermine civil liberties, while doing nothing to enhance safety.
In fact, this anti-Muslim rhetoric serves no purpose but to play on people’s fears and stigmatize and stereotype Muslims under the guise of national security, rather than focusing resources on violent behavior. But the Trump administration does not seem interested in effective policies, just as it is not interested in the bombing of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center.
With one of the president’s top security advisers dismissing attacks like Oklahoma City and suggesting that the recent mosque attack was the work of a left-wing extremist, the Trump administration appears determined to put politics and bigotry before public security and civil liberties.